Sunday, March 25, 2018

Iximché

My friend, JDR, made a spontaneous trip to  Guatemala to explore and visit. I was so happy to welcome her to my adopted country and show her around. She has such an adventuring and open spirit! She loved it here.

One of the highlights was a trip to the nearest Mayan ruins, a place called Iximché. (Say it kinda like eesh-,eem-CHEH). I contacted my buddy, Gustavo at GR Travel and reserved a private shuttle. I filled it with a bunch of my awesome friends and off we went! 😁

Iximché is about 1.5 hours from Pana. A lovely drive thru the countryside, made shorter by great conversations in the shuttle. Arriving at Iximché, Bert and I were beaming with happiness at the abundant pine trees. The smell of pine needles is so reminiscent of Ontario!

To commemorate "the end of the world" in 2012, aka the end of the Mayan calendar, they made a fiberglass stela with Mayan words on it. Each block-picture is a sentence. Pretty cool.
Huge big pine trees!
The entrance looking into the first plaza.
Some of my adventurous friends -- Bert, NJP, new friend C.S., and Amazing Iva!
Each plaza had a temple to the sun, moon, and wind.
Most of the area was flat grass, burnt dry by the sun. I imagine it would look a lot greener in the rainy season...or perhaps just muddier!
The guide was invaluable to explaining each temple and the building ruins. He even answered all of our pesky questions. "Could the people in Plaza 1 marry people in Plaza 3? Or was it like a Romeo and Juliet kinda thing?" 😋 
Tenacious little flowers blooming even without rain.
The area was abandoned in 1524 and not excavated and restored until 1956 or so.
Trees have grown on top of them, which makes for an interesting picture, but in reality is not what it looked like at all when the area was in use.
A Mayan ball court. The hoops are missing. We had a good laugh making up stories about how it was played, with the sudden addition of wild lions! Ha ha!
Bert, playing pack mule again, Iva strolling ahead, our guide Melvin, and our new friend, C.S. 
I always like to stop and look around and imagine what it was like with people living here.
My friend from Canada, JDR, taking amazing photos of the area. She didn't have enough time to go aaaaaallll the way across Guatemala to see Tikal, so Iximché was a good second choice!
Another fascinating thing about Iximché is that it is still an active Mayan ceremonial site. Way at the back in Plaza E (or 5?) is this area of stones and altars, all blackened from candles and burnt offerings. There were even Mayan ladies there when we were visiting. They were carrying bags of grass and other offerings. The guide had lots of info about what they do and why, so I won't give it away. Just go visit. 😄
The ceremonial site. (Thanks, JDR, for the picture!)
Bert and Iva touring the grounds.
Iva did a podcast or live something at the end of our tour and we all hammed it up for her fans. 😁
Check out her page at Amazing Me Movement
I wasn't feeling well so I didn't take a lot of pictures. But I thoroughly enjoyed the visit to Iximché and would highly recommend it as a day trip from Panajachel or even Antigua. Be sure to get a guide!! They will give you amazing stories and information. I was fascinated by the stuff Melvin told us, especially about how the "king" at Iximché was the "King of the Bats"! (The word in the Mayan language is "sotz'" which equals "murciélago" in Spanish.) When the Spaniards demolished Iximché, a lot of the "bat people" moved to Sololá and they put their logo of a bat on the back of their shirts. I had no idea!!
sotz' murciélago bat Sololá Guatemala Kaqchikel
A stylized bat symbol that is sewn on the top back of the mens' shirts in Sololá.
Click the pic for source.
sotz' murciélago bat Sololá Guatemala Kaqchikel
Some Mayan hieroglyphs of bats, actually a vampire bat. 😲
We only spent about two hours at the ruins. There were bathrooms there, but not much else. I don't even think there was a gift shop, but maybe I just missed it.

After that, we went to a great restaurant called Chichoy's that is located on the highway back to Panajachel. I had stopped briefly at it before on shuttle rides but had never had a chance to eat there. It was pretty good! The building and grounds are very interesting too. It's all made with local pine trees. There is a hanging bridge and an angry goose! Worth the stop if you're passing thru Tecpán on the CA1 highway. (Which you pretty much always do when driving from the city or Antigua to Panajachel and beyond.)
They have cheese and bacon fondue! YUMMY.
Bert had a giant plate of nachos. He had to take most of it home, it was such a big portion.
I hope anyone visiting Guatemala can take a half day to go visit Iximché. It is a nice relaxing trip, very easy going, pretty flat, but with areas where you may want to go up or down some stairs.

Entrance fee: Q50 per person
Guide: Q140 for small group (This varies with size and guide, I think.)
Shuttle: Contact GR Travel for rates and reservations.

Thanks for reading and let me know in the comments if you've ever enjoyed a trip to Iximché or other ruins in Guatemala.